Public officials who talk too much, act too slow, and do too little




RJ Nieto

President Rody Duterte, in his campaign speeches, repeatedly complained that government officials “talk too much, act too slow, and do too little.” And I would like to believe that his campaign slogan “Change is Coming” was created precisely because of that.

I can see that noticeable change has come in a lot of areas.

Duterte’s “Build! Build! Build!”  public works boom replaced Aquino’s “analysis paralysis.” His more “Filipino First” foreign policy perspective replaced Aquino’s heavily pro-West stance. His anti-illegal drugs campaign significantly reduced shabu in the streets.

Without belittling the Duterte administration’s achievements so far, note that the operative term I used is “noticeable change.” A lot of things have changed, I agree, but we still have a long way to go towards a total transformation.

Most of the cabinet officials that I’ve spoken with over the past several months agree to this, with the best illustration being their efforts to solve our country’s 20-year infrastructure backlog.

The “Build! Build! Build!” committee has accomplished a lot in just three years. Sec. Mark Villar’s DPWH has built thousands of kilometers of new roads. Sec. Art Tugade’s DoTr is modernizing our airports and fixing our railways. President Vince Dizon’s BCDA spearheads the development of a new economic center, New Clark City.

These changes are a radical departure from what the public experienced under the administration of President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino.

Remember when PNoy in 2010 canceled a legitimate P19-billion flood control contract with the Belgians and the government, after losing the ensuing arbitration case, paid P800 million plus interest in fines? Or maybe when “laglag-bala” and baggage theft plagued our already dilapidated and overcrowded airports? Or how about the South China Sea issue that almost escalated into a full-scale war?

Yes, a lot of things have changed since then, but the government still has a long way to go: it’s too early for public officials to pat each other on the back. But unfortunately, it appears that some of the President’s closest men didn’t get that memo.

First is the excruciatingly incompetent Presidential Communications officials who, instead of focusing resources in promoting the Palace’s core priorities, would rather spend money to fly to some obscure European country where most citizens probably don’t even know where the Philippines is.

When I was still a little kid, I used to see a lot of government-sponsored infomercials i.e., those ending with “Isang paalala mula sa OPS-PIA, KBP, at ng himpilang ito.” I haven’t stumbled upon anything like that in the past three years.

And when these officials deign to do their actual jobs, they usually make the situation worse, like that recently deleted PCOO explainer video about New York-based Filipinos. PCOO, aside from murdering Basic English, unwittingly promoted unconstitutional requests and even placed Long Island in New Jersey.

Mayon Volcano in Naga City back then is now Long Island in New Jersey.

There’s also presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo who, instead of letting DoTr do the talking, dipped his hands on the traffic crisis. Instead of engaging the public in a productive discussion, he reduced the debate into a semantic dispute that culminated in an hours-long PR stunt that looked like an ad campaign for Angkas.

Second is the President’s running mate and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. He recently said traffic is due to economic growth without mentioning the other factor — a massive failure in urban planning. This is no different from what then Cayetano ally and DILG Secretary Mar Roxas said in 2015.

Aside from the Emergency Powers Bill that got derailed in the Senate, the House has yet to pursue any other relevant policy reforms. In my best recollection, the House under Cayetano has yet to mount any serious attempt at fixing traffic-related laws, such as those governing public procurement, eminent domain, right-of-way, red tape, PUV franchising, and traffic management.

Add the fact that the House funneled billions of pesos to its lump sum-ridden budget, instead of using it to augment funding for infrastructure projects.

Meh. Cayetano should’ve fixed his House before he starts telling other people what to do.

Third is Secretary Sonny Dominguez’s Finance Department, which seems hell-bent on blocking the much-needed New Manila International Airport in Bulacan. Despite the recent contract signing and subsequent issuance of the notice to proceed, the contractor said the project might face even more delays as “another department” was again asking for “clarifications.”

We all know that DoF has been questioning the NMIA proposal for years. Yet up to now, it still insists on satiating its insatiable appetite for “clarifications,” further prolonging the suffering of OFWs in the overcrowded and over-congested NAIA.

Duterte appointees who do their respective jobs appear to talk less, while those who do little to solve national issues speak a lot, lot more.

Kudos to DoTr, BCDA, DPWH, and many other government agencies for doing your best despite the humongous political, fiscal, and policy constraints.

As for the others, please remember that President Duterte detests public officials who “talk too much, act too slow, and do too little.”